I got a question on twitter the other day that got me thinking. The question was simple:
“Hey Khalid, Just wondering, Do your countrymen hate the US as much as we are being told in the media?”
The discussion on twitter was quite casual (there’s only so much you can say in 140 characters), but it got me thinking about how to explain the on-ground situation in Pakistan better to an audience that has never seen the level of war and bloodshed on its own doorstep that we see every day.
Have you ever seen the after-effects of a suicide attack? I don’t mean pictures in the newspaper or on the evening news, or one of those “produced” documentaries about the violence in the Muslim world. I mean real life, in person, up close. No? You should be thankful. The carnage of body parts strewn in pools of blood that turn into rivers that flow down the streets or the remnants of what used to be a vehicle or a person that delivered the explosive device—any way I try to describe it comes down to simple words… gruesome, inhibiting and humbling.
The reason that I describe this carnage is not to disgust you, but to help you understand a thing that very few have seen. It’s to help you understand that while you live safe and secure in your home, there are people that live in fear each day that they may be the next target, intended or accidentally. It’s so when you condemn the countries where these attacks happen, you have a better understanding of what those citizens live with each day, wondering if they will be the intended or accidental targets tomorrow.
The tribal areas of Pakistan has been the staging ground for every militant group looking to fight a war against perceived oppressors. Let’s be clear here, though—the tribal areas are not encroached upon, their land has not been stolen, their resources have not been snatched from them and their children aren’t used to wage Pakistan’s wars. Their anger towards Pakistan has everything to do with our alliance against the Taliban and with the US after 9/11 and with the apparent ‘modernization’ of our culture—much like the Afghan Taliban’s distress at the cosmopolitan trends in Kabul before the Soviet invasion.
To understand the tribal areas, you have to think of those areas in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota where the militia groups reside. They are left to their own devices because the local and state police, much less the federal government, want nothing to do with policing them or bringing them to book under the law. The militia groups are preparing to overthrow the US government violently. They don’t hide that from anyone, nor do they shy away from recruiting disenfranchised people into their fold. For the purpose of this article, I would like you to think of them as the Taliban.
How much control does the US government have over these militia groups? Can they control their activities, the supply of arms to them or the financial support that they get from like-minded US citizens? Not as far as I remember from my twenty years of living in the United States.
How are they different from the Taliban that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas? Simple. They don’t have the support of any military or intelligence organization, nor have they ever waged war against anyone. It’s all war games and training exercises for them. It’s not for the Taliban, who are battle hardened.
The Taliban in Pakistan, better known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is fully supported by al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and financially supported by members of the Saudi royal family. There are also reports in the British media that the CIA was behind their creation at two facilities near Gitmo called Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, much like they were behind the creation of the Afghan Taliban to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. While the CIA claims it was used to turn al-Qaeda operatives, Veterans Today says it was used to create the TTP that Pakistan fights today. The stories and comments of the US military in regards to these facilities would shake any American knowing that al-Qaeda operatives were being considered for release into the US population in the hope that they would lead to terror cells, without considering what would happen if they weren’t as credible as the US military would like to think.
The TTP has waged war on Pakistan and US/Coalition forces since they moved into the region. As a matter of fact, the TTP leadership has a safe haven in the Nooristan province of Afghanistan and the New York Times, on October 28, 2013, reported that the Afghan government is using these militant groups for leverage against both the US/Coalition forces and Pakistan.
“The disrupted plan involved Afghan intelligence trying to work with the Pakistan Taliban, allies of Al Qaeda, in order to find a trump card in a baroque regional power game that is likely to intensify after the American withdrawal next year, the officials said. And what started the hard feelings was that the Americans caught them red-handed.
Tipped off to the plan, United States Special Forces raided an Afghan convoy that was ushering a senior Pakistan Taliban militant, Latif Mehsud, to Kabul for secret talks last month, and now have Mr. Mehsud in custody.
Publicly, the Afghan government has described Mr. Mehsud as an insurgent peace emissary. But according to Afghan officials, the ultimate plan was to take revenge on the Pakistani military.”
“The capture could be a significant blow to the Pakistani Taliban, who have waged a decade-long insurgency against Islamabad from sanctuaries along the Afghan border. They have also helped the Afghan Taliban in their war against U.S.-led NATO troops in Afghanistan.”
The same organization that was created and trusted by the CIA to support them in the War on Terror turned against them as soon as they reached Afghanistan. This had nothing to do with Pakistan or its military, rather it was Karzai and his intelligence services that turned them against the US.
While it is easy to scapegoat the Pakistan Army and the ISI, our intelligence organization, for supporting the Taliban, the facts on ground don’t support this presumption. With over 70,000 Pakistanis dead from terrorist attacks like the one I described at the beginning of this piece, thousands of soldiers captured and beheaded, our military stands as the only force willing to fight the terrorist invaders into our country. Our government, on the other hand, is more interested in negotiating and potentially sacrificing part of Pakistan to them, even while the Pakistani military assaulted militant hideouts in the tribal areas and completely sealed the area for a ground offensive to permanently eliminate them.
Maybe the world should apply the same standard to the United States and its citizens that is forced on those countries that the government or media don’t find favorable.
If we were to believe the US media, America is full of people who have more weapons than sense, who beat up more women in a year than any Muslim country, who molest children as priests and teachers only to walk away with light prison sentences. Maybe you would prefer the drunken, drug addicted image that prevails the DUIs and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings found everywhere in your cities. Should we talk about the Patriot Act that gave the government the power to read your mail, record your phone calls or just erase you from society with the click of a key on a keyboard? Maybe we should talk about the Tea Party and the Conservative right of the Republican party that wants to make religion the basis for all decisions in the federal and state governments, which is nothing different than what the Taliban wants for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But I would remind you that America is 250 years old and still maturing. The United Kingdom is thousands of years old and still maturing. What is it that you expect of Pakistan who barely has 65 years of life under its belt? That we would take advice and counsel from your country, with all its faults and failures, that hasn’t learned from its mistakes, nor admits that they have made any?
Isn’t that exactly what the Pakistani government is doing?